Steve Popovic, has 38 years’ experience in the smash repair industry. He came to Australia as a teenager with his family from Croatia in 1975 and the following year began an apprenticeship in panel beating. In 1984 he opened his first body repair facility and today owns the Mt. Druitt Auto Body Repairs in Mt. Druitt.
He said technology has changed the face of the smash repair industry and is one of the major tenets for the future. Steve said when he first started in the industry repairers would have to chase customers for themselves – today the biggest customers are the insurance companies.
Technology needs to be embraced by repairers Steve believes, or they will be left behind in the industry. He said most repairers are keeping pace with technological advances in body repairs along with the insurance companies. Steve keeps up with industry trends and markets by travelling frequently overseas and attending industry conferences and undertaking a lot of networking.
Steve believes the smash repair industry in Australia needs a national summit to iron out differences in how repairers work and to look at what technologies need embracing, consolidation of small repair shops and alignment with insurance companies. He believes the winners will be consumers; insurers and repairers alike.
Steve said the market is driving repairers to become progressive by embracing the rapid repair technologies that allow consumer’s vehicles to be fixed and returned to them in a short timeframe. In his workshop Steve has computers strategically placed around the facility to allow technicians to have live planning boards in relation to each vehicle repair. The computers allow technicians to see what has been done on the vehicles, what is planned and what needs undertaking. The computers have negated the need to have regular workshop meetings of repair personnel to decide what needs to be done, what has been done and what is planned.
When Steve started in the smash repair industry there was a lot oxy-welding of panels, then mig-welding – today with the various technologies assisting each step of repair he believes the industry has jumped from the Stone Age to the 25th Century.
Steve said he joined AAPR because he believed the industry needed a voice and to be represented with its own body along with progressive views. He knows his industry needs constant updating and believes the AAPR will assist in giving consumers a better experience and service.
He said one of major keys for repairers to progress is to better understand what the insurance companies require and to work closely with them. Vehicle manufacturers are introducing new safety measures in vehicles which may also drop the amount of repairs due to onboard collision avoidance systems. Steve said repairers must be prepared to constantly update their technological prowess to keep up with, if not ahead, of what markets require.
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